We really do use a lot of rope metaphors in the course of our day. We are tied in knots. We feel frazzled. We couldn’t tie up those loose ends and now we are all tied up. Then things unravel on us. They come undone. And when that happens, we feel like we are at the end of our rope.
You probably caught the theme here—these are all negative. Ropes bind us. They restrict our movement and they keep us tethered to something. And, well, we hate that feeling.
But I’d like to try to redeem this language a little, if I’m able.
This Saturday, I had the chance to serve alongside some of you down in the Mockingbird neighborhood. This was our second opportunity to set aside some time to serve as part of our Lenten devotion. We helped set up and stock a food pantry for a nonprofit called Services of Hope operating out of Mockingbird Community Church. We weren’t there long, but we were able to help them out a lot, and we also learned a lot about this ministry and this church.
The pastor shared with us his heart for his community, how they are working to become a gospel presence among the people that live in this neighborhood. He shared his struggle to engage with people who, frankly, didn’t really want to be a part of a church that they would get ‘all tangled up’ in.
I know what he’s talking about. Now more than ever, people are wary of entanglement. Our culture has conditioned us to think of tangled lives as stressful and inefficient and increasingly we are offered ways around or out of the tangly parts of life. Earlier today, I was at a Chick-Fil-A and watched a cluster of people stand awkwardly in the entryway waiting for their online orders to be placed in cubbies for them to pick up. Meanwhile, the line to place an order with a human was empty.
The promise of this convenience is that we can remove the limitations and restrictions that come along with being tied to others. Once we’ve streamlined everything, we can finally be free to do what we want to do.
But Saturday reminded me how great some entanglements are. I was stocking shelves next to Brittany, who organized the event for us. She’s been a part of Community Groups or dinner groups with us many times over the years. Brittany also took care of our son Beckett several days a week for the first year of his life. Our lives have been criss-crossing at Restoration now for the better part of a decade. And now we were putting boxes of rice cakes on a shelf.
I looked around and saw more tangled goodness. A woman whose children are grown was helping three girls organize a shelf of canned goods. Two elementary school boys had transformed into ‘the box brothers’, tasked with collapsing empty cardboard boxes.
I can look beyond that. Members of Restoration have lived with us in different seasons of life. I’ve been to weddings and funerals. Through Restoration, I’ve met friends from Iraq, Syria, and—more recently—South Dallas. Who knew?
Here’s my point: the church invites us to find joy in a tangled life.
We weren’t made to be slickly coated in WD-40, slipping out of connection and obligation. We were made to be bound to one another. Tethered to one another—by commitment and compassion, through memories both joyful and tragic.
Jesus repeats this mandate again and again to his disciples: love one another. In a world that sees entanglement as something to avoid, he invites us into his tangled kingdom. But this ‘tied up’ life won’t be about cluttered schedules. Its fruit won’t be anxiety or worry. But it can only work if it’s based on love.
Lent offers us the chance to untie ourselves from some of the fraught knots that attach us to the world. Whether that’s letting go of simple luxuries or building in new habits, we get the chance to un-tangle from those things that hold us back.
But Lenten disciplines also offer us the chance to be willingly tied down. Lenten fasts limit us and encumber us. They won’t allow us to live the free and easy and independent lives we think we deserve.
This weekend was a wonderful chance for me to remember the goodness of these loving ties that bind us together as the church. When our lives become tangled up not with dates on a calendar, but with the lives of others, we find ourselves able to serve and love the way Jesus did. We will find ourselves living a life we never could have imagined for ourselves.
I’m glad my life is entangled in the life of Restoration Anglican Church. I encourage you to take a moment this week to reflect on the people you’re grateful to be ‘bound up with.’ Write them a note, take them out for coffee, and tell them how living alongside them has led you closer to Jesus. And consider what it would look like to lean a little more into our tangled life together.